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PUBLIC DOCUMENT . . . .
Custody and Condition
Parishes, Towns, and Counties.
By ROBERT T. SWAN, Commissioner.
PROPERTY OF THE
UNITED STATES BUREAU OF LABOR
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE A LABOR
WRIGHT & POTTER PRINTING CO., STATE PRINTERS,
18 Post Office Square.
The State Board of Publication.
Commotifoealt^r of UlassatJMsrtis.
Office of the Commissioner of Public Records,
Boston, Mass., Jan. 1, 1904.
To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives.
I have the honor to submit the twelfth report of this com-
mission, being the sixteenth in the series of reports on' the
The Work of the Year.
It is difficult to state the results of any one year. It
is peculiar, varying from compelling compliance with the
statutes to searching for missing records and investigatinc-
CD CD O O
matters pertaining to recording. The constant answering
of inquiries concerning particular records, and records in
general, is a part of the work where results cannot be stated.
The nature of the work is quiet and unobtrusive, often con-
fidential. One writer has called the office " the most peace-
ful and somnolent of all the State departments," and it may
be a question whether more aggressive work, brought more
to public notice, would not bring more help from interested
persons in the several communities.
The city and town officials are so slow to act upon matters
connected with the records that requirements made during
a year often are not complied with during the year. This
is not to be wondered at, when it is considered, as has been
many times stated in these reports, that little thought or
attention is given to the records until some special event
requires their production. Moreover, for about thirty years
the laws relating to them were a dead letter, for until the
establishment of this commission no one was called upon
or expected to enforce them. Even now it is difficult to
convince the city and town officials that the commissioner
4 PUBLIC KECOKDS. [Jan.
intends, as far as possible and within reason, to enforce
The passage of so many laws concerning town matters
which are not enforced, and which the public does not
expect will be, leads to the conclusion that action is not
necessary. A few of these are cited. Every town is re-
quired to have a seal ; but many have none. Every city
and town must maintain guide posts at such places as are
convenient for the direction of travellers, and which at the
junction of ways leading to other cities or towns must state
whence they lead, and the distance ; but little attention is
paid to this law. All unlicensed dogs must be killed ; but
despite the fact that returns are made certifying that they
have been, it is commonly known they have not. Most of
the individual celebration of the Fourth of July with gun-
powder is absolutely prohibited, yet is openly allowed.. The
driver of a horse drawing a sleigh or sled on any public way
or bridge, without at least three bells attached to the har-
ness, is liable to a penalty ; yet one, or the absence of any,
is commonly allowed.
The most surprising disregard of the law is found in the
matter of the return and registry of births and deaths. Since
the early days of the colony parents have been required to
make return of every child born to them, and for many
years householders have been required to make a return of
every birth or death in their households ; but it is so rare
an occurrence for such a return to be made that it would
surprise a city or town clerk to receive one. The failure to
have made these in the past (and now will soon be the past)
is a constant vexation to persons consulting the records ;
property rights are affected and litigation ensues ; but if
the people are satisfied to allow the neglect of so much of
importance in the records, the officials can reasonably infer
that their neglect to care for them will not be considered
Without a community interested and approving, the com-
missioner finds his suggestions adopted slowly, if at all, and
enforcement of the law without clashing requires tact and
1904.] PUBLIC DOCUMENT — No. 52.
Enforcement of the Laws.
The statute requires that the commissioner shall take the
' ' necessary measures " for the preservation of the records as
required by the laws. As far as possible he does, but it
must be admitted that there are conditions where he cannot
obtain required results. Where the only practical method
for strict compliance with the law is the expenditure of large
sums for the building of a new city or town hall, he cannot
compel it. He can point out the requirements, suggest, and
urge, thereby putting the responsibility upon the several
communities, but should not be held responsible in case of
the destruction of the records.
The above conditions exist in Newton and Boston. The
city hall in Newton is a remodelled wooden building, with
dangerous surroundings, and its destruction by fire need not
be unexpected. For several years the commissioner has
called the attention of successive city governments to the
danger to the records, but no improvements have been made,
there being a prevailing sentiment that a new city hall will
be built as soon as location can be agreed upon, and that
adequate protection in the present building would neces-
sitate too great an expenditure for temporary uses.
In Boston the records are chiefly in the city hall and old
court house, although many of the city offices are in other
buildings. In 1889 the commissioner first called the atten-
tion of the city government to the lack of proper provision
for the safety of the records, and a large vault was built in
the basement, to which many of the records were removed.
Schemes for a new city hall were soon after advanced, and
have been revived from time to time since. Meanwhile, a
vault has been constructed in the old court house for the
city registrar, a large one under the city hall yard, and
various minor improvements have been made. Still many
of the records are unprotected and will probably remain so,
if not destroyed, until the much-needed new city hall is
In 1901 a committee was appointed to make an examina-
tion of the manuscript records in possession of the city, and
6 PUBLIC RECORDS. [Jan.
to submit recommendations for their preservation. This
committee reported in February, 1902, suggesting four
plans : —
1. To deposit in the Public Library the historical records
and certain executive documents.
2. To turn over to the city registrar the records of his-
3. To obtain rooms in fire-proof buildings, and make a
general deposit of all records possessed by the city.
4. To construct a hall of records.
Legislation would be needed for the carrying out of the
first two plans, as each department must have control of its
Of the four plans, the last was the only one favored by
the committee. This is in line with the plan for a public
record office, which has been advocated from time to time
in the reports of this commission, where its advantages have
been set forth.
To the public record office all the older records and papers
of all the cities and towns could be brought, thereby reliev-
ing the local authorities from storing in mass the ever-
increasing accumulation. In the hands of experts the
unimportant papers could be taken out for destruction,
and the others made available. As a business proposition,
would it not be well for cities and towns, before building
new city and town halls of capacities sufficient to provide
for the rapid accumulation of the records for many years
to come, to advocate the establishment of the public record
Accumulation of Papers.
The accumulation of papers constituting part of the public
records is presenting a problem which must be solved by
The statutes provide that "the words 'public records,'
unless a contrary intention clearly appears, mean any written
or printed book or paper . . . which an officer or employee
of the Commonwealth, or of a county, city, or town has
received or is required to receive for filing." Section 14
of chapter 35 of the Revised Laws provides that every
1904.] PUBLIC DOCUMENT — No. 52. 7
original paper belonging to the files, bearing date earlier
than the year 1800, and many papers not required to be
recorded, relative to State, county, and municipal matters,
shall be preserved and safely kept. All other papers musi
be kept for seven years, when they may be destroyed with
the approval of the Commissioner of Public Records.
Until 1894, when the attention of the Legislature was
brought to the omission, there was no definition of the
public records, and the files were not generally considered
as constituting a part of them. No provision for their safety
had been, as a rule, made ; and thousands of papers, includ-
ing maps, plans, descriptions of highways, and historical
and genealogical matter, have been burned, or sent to the
paper mill. (Some, fortunately, were stolen, and are being
brought to light. )
There are, however, in the cities and towns accumulations
of papers for which now as a part of the public records fire-
proof protection must be provided at considerable expense,
either by building vaults or fire-proof buildings, or buying
safes. The position of the commissioner in the matter is
peculiar and difficult. It is his duty to see that the records
are kept in fire-proof receptacles and arranged for examina-
tion and reference, and, strictly, the files should be ; but in
the greater part of the towns the important and unimportant
papers are jumbled together, often with a mass of printed
matter. It is unreasonable to require that the useless papers
shall be protected, but there seems to be no one to sort
them. The town clerks are not paid enough for what is
required of them by statute as current work, and cannot be
expected to devote time to putting in order the neglected
accumulation of years. Moreover, many of the papers
belong to other departments, and are not in the custody
of the clerks.
The records are generally considered an incumbrance, and
the town officers are loath to expend money for their care.
Under these conditions there seems little prospect of action
in the matter except under threat of prosecution ; but work
of this kind, which the commissioner cannot supervise, should
not be done under compulsion. He would certainly hesitate
8 PUBLIC RECORDS. [Jan.
to sanction the destruction of papers laid out for the pur-
pose where the sentiment was in favor of having as few as
possible to care for.
A public record office, in which the old records and papers
will some day find an abiding place where they will be
properly cared for and classified, the people are not yet
ready for. The suggestion is, therefore, offered that the
files in the cities and towns be sorted under the direction
of the Commissioner of Public Records at the expense of
the respective cities and towns. This would be less expen-
sive to them than to provide fire-proof receptacles for all
the files, which would seem to be the other alternative.
In the county courts the accumulation of the files is large
and rapidly increasing, and the proper protection of them
means constant remodelling or refitting of the present build-
ings, or the erection of new at great expense. In the
accumulation are venires, reports on inquests, rolls of dam-
ages done by dogs, election returns, costs in criminal cases,
and many papers like accounts annexed in civil suits. (The
commissioner recalls a bill several yards in length, of a
country store-keeper, on which a small balance was due on
an open account. This not only was on file, but, under the
custom in that court, was recorded in full.)
That there may be a carefully guarded provision for the
destruction of some of these papers after they are outlawed,
or can no longer affect public rights, would seem practicable.
Believing this, the commissioner suggested to the clerks of
the county courts permissive, not compulsory, legislation,
which should provide that the clerk and Commissioner of
Public Records should from time to time submit to the
justices a list of papers to be destroyed upon their author-
ization. Some more restrictive measures mi^ht be advis-
able, such as designating the papers to be preserved; but
the tendency of any one likely to hold either of the above
positions would be toward preservation rather than destruc-
tion of the files.
The replies of the clerks show diversity of opinion. One
would preserve everything ; two would destroy nearly every-
thing after a term of years ; while one is not prepared to
1904.] PUBLIC DOCUMENT — No. 52. 9
advocate any definite line, but mentions certain papers that
might be destroyed. The general opinion is that venire-,
election returns, dog rolls, and costs in criminal cases could
be destroyed ; while opinion is about equally divided on
reports of inquests, and depositions.
Besides the saving in room to be gained in the destruc-
tion of what are considered useless papers, it would add to
the value of what are preserved by making them more likely
to be cared for, and more accessible.
In view of the varied opinions, it does not seem worth
while to ask for immediate legislation ; but the subject
should receive consideration by the county officers who arc-
to provide, and the people who are to pay for, buildings in
which to store these papers. The relief and benefit to the
cities and towns to be derived from a public record office,
as suggested under "Enforcement of the Laws," could be
extended to the counties. All papers of genealogical or his-
torical value would there be preserved and made available.
Politics in Kecording Offices.
The attempts to make the offices of the recording officers
political prizes still continue, to the detriment of the records
and the public service. Honest service and efficiency gained
by experience count for nothing as against such a doctrine,
recently printed, as that an office "has been a gift to the
party long enough ; " and when a minority party, or a fac-
tion within a party, sees a possible chance for a new candi-
date, he is brought forward. Fortunately, the attempts of
the politicians do not meet with much success, but they are
becoming more frequent, several opposing candidates having
been brought forward this year ; and the uncertainty per-
taining to an office counts against the best possible adminis-
tration of it.
Individual members of the community give little thought
to the public records or their custodians until personal inter-
ests are concerned, or they find their county, city, or town
losing some rights or money because of the carelessness,
dishonesty, or ignorance of a recording officer. The dis-
appearance of a single paper, such as a bond, a mortgage.
10 PUBLIC RECORDS. [Jan.
or a will, from the custody of a clerk of a court, or of a
register of deeds, or register of probate, either through care-
lessness, dishonesty, or ignorance, might be of great moment
to the parties in interest. Carefulness and honesty may be
found in new incumbents, but knowledge of the duties of
the several offices can best be learned by experience, and
incumbents found to possess all these qualities should be
kept in office as long as they are efficient. They are the
servants of the people, not parties ; and the fact that they
are members of one party or another, or of none, should be
as immaterial as whether they are allopaths or homeopaths,
High Church Episcopalians or Quakers.
The judiciary of Massachusetts largely owes its high
standard to the fact that the judges are appointed, and are
absolutely removed from politics. The clerks of the police,
municipal, and district courts are appointed, and opinion is
growing that the clerks of the supreme and superior courts,
and the registers of deeds and of probate, allied as they are
to the judicial system, should be. Continued introduction
of politics into these offices will tend to bring this about.
In Berkshire County, politics was unexpectedly introduced
at the last election, — a disappointing fact, because its two
cities, North Adams and Fittsfield, had both wisely accepted
the act allowing the election of city clerks for three years,
and to that extent taken recording offices out of politics.
(In Pittsfield there had been an annual contest since it
became a city.) It was to be hoped that this sentiment
would prevail in regard to county offices ; but in the
Republican convention an underhanded "deal" resulted in
the nomination by a majority of two of a new candidate
for register of probate. Thereupon a Democratic nomina-
tion was made for both register of probate and clerk of the
courts for the first time for many terms.
The clerk was re-elected, but an experienced and efficient
register of probate, thoroughly versed in probate law, whose
office had been administered without suggestion of complaint,
was displaced by a new and inexperienced incumbent, who
is more than likely, now that the office is brought into poli-
tics, to find a contest at the end of his term.
1904.] PUBLIC DOCUMENT — No. 52. 11
Terms of Office'.
By chapter 332 of the Acts of 1901, cities won; obliged
to vote upon the acceptance of the act which required the
election of city clerks for terms of three years. It un-
accepted by 27 of the cities, and the commissioner sees
with great satisfaction the continuance in office for at least
another year of the city clerks in cities where " clean
sweeps " of the offices are predicted.
The act was rejected by these small majorities in the
following cities : Beverly, 276 ; Lowell, 788 ; Marlborough,
182; Northampton, 337; Quincy, 271; and Waltham,
It has been represented to the commissioner that many
not familiar with the act did not vote, and that another vote
would show a different result. While towns may by the
acceptance of section 335 of chapter 11 of the Kevised
Laws elect a town clerk for three years, the above-named
cities must ask for special legislation ; and, notwithstanding
the printed criticisms of the commissioner for " defying the
popular verdict," and having the "impudence" to suggest
in 1902 that these cities be given another opportunity, he
renews the suggestion, and in the interest of the records
urges persons in the above cities who know their value,
and the desirability of keeping the recording offices out of
politics, to ask such legislation, that their cities may be on
equal footing with the majority, where the longer tenure of
office encourages the clerks to improvements in work and
Exaggerated NTeavspaper Beports.
From time to time reports appear in the newspapers of
the loss or discovery of valuable records. With one excep-
tion the reports of loss, usually sent during the excitement
of a fire, have been either false or greatly exaggerated, and,
though the commissioner tries to correct the statements,
they become fixed in the public mind. The reported loss
of all the records of Marlborough, by the burning of the
city hall, where none were lost, though extensively contra-
dicted, is still considered a fact, and inquiries are made of
12 PUBLIC RECORDS. [J
this office where facts presumably recorded in Marlborough
can be ascertained. A very recent printed statement that
the city's records are unprotected because of the loss of the
city hall is also false.
A report under "Town Records Lost," in heavy lines,
stated that the records of Washington were mysteriously
disappearing, and a search warrant might be issued. Dupli-
cate keys were hinted at. The fact was that a volume had
been taken for use by some one having access to the safe,
which was not strictly allowable, but it was returned to the
clerk as soon as asked for. The records of Tyringham were
falsely reported as having been carried out of town by a
former selectman, but this report was without foundation.
The loss of records in fires at Burlington, Townsend, and
some other towns have been reported when none were lost.
These reports reflect upon the commissioner and the local
authorities, and are read with regret by persons throughout
the country interested in the respective towns and their
records, who never see the denials.
The reports of the "discovery" of valuable papers are
instructive, and to be welcomed as helps to arouse public
interest, but they are often amusing as items of news.
With few exceptions the papers are some which have been
rescued by the commissioner from obscure places in town
halls or elsewhere, where their existence was unknown
because of accumulations with them of masses of printed
matter, unimportant written matter, school supplies, and a
miscellaneous collection of rubbish, such as stage scenery,
fair-decorations, and kindling wood. Upon bringing these
to light they have been put in proper custody, and in course
of time are "discovered" by some one, who writes a
descriptive article. Similar descriptions would apply in
very many towns, and it is possible that more extensive
reports of the commissioner at the time, making public
the results of his work of discovery, would have aroused a
general interest in the towns specified. There are many
towns where such papers undoubtedly can be found, and the
local historical societies can do no better work than to find
them. When found, however, they should be placed in
li>04.] PUBLIC DOCUMENT — No. 52. \\\
Reports of the Commissioner.
The commissioner has for two years asked for an additional
number of the annual reports, but no attention whatever has
been paid to the request. He is fully aware that under the
present method of distribution a part^of those now printed
are of no use to any one, and form part of the mas^ of
printed matter sent to the cities and towns which is piled
away as a useless encumbrance, entailing more or less
expense. In many cases it is a menace to the records which
have found their way into the mass. On the other hand, he
knows that they may be of use to the recording officers
and persons having official connection with the records, if
put into their hands directly and seasonably. This is proved
by the numberless inquiries concerning matters (notably in
regard to typewriting) which have been fully set forth in the
reports, and by evidence that requirements of the law therein
mentioned have not come to the attention of those concerned.
Moreover, they often suggest legislation, and the sugges-
tions should be brought to the notice of the recording officers,
perhaps to oppose, before action upon them, instead of
months after the Legislature adjourns.
The Secretary of the Commonwealth has placed a large
number of the reports in the hands of the commissioner to
fill the demands of a mailing list of persons desiring them,
but to supply the recording officers the commissioner has for
two years had a sufficient number printed at his own expense.
To be relieved of this, he asks that 500 additional copies be
annually printed, to be placed in his hands for distribution.
Notwithstanding that the use of the typewriter upon the
public records was authorized in 1899, and the list of ribbons
approved by the commissioner to be used upon them was
printed in the report for 1900, inquiries are often received
from recording officers in regard to the legality of typewriting
upon the records, and whether such writing is permanent.
Such inquiries are received also from persons all over the
country who have heard that the subject has had official
investigation in Massachusetts, and it seems well, therefore,
14 PUBLIC KECORDS. [Jan.
to quote the law and again print the list of approved ribbons.
One of them is withdrawn from the list, as it is no longer
Persons having the care or custody of public records in
any department or office of the Commonwealth, or of any
county, city, or town, " shall not use or permit to be used
upon such records any ribbon, pad, or other device used for
printing by typewriting machines, or any ink contained in
such ribbon, pad, or device, except such as has been approved
by the commissioner " of public records.
In accordance with the provisions of section 9 of chapter
35 of the Revised Laws, the following ribbons and pad, and
the pads and other devices used for printing by typewriting
machines, made by any of the manufacturers named below,
if inked with the inks used upon their respective ribbons,
are approved for use upon the public records of the Com-
monwealth, and of the several counties, cities, and towns
The arrangement of the list is alphabetical by the names
of the manufacturers, without regard to preference.
Carter's Black Record Typewriter Ribbon.
Manufactured by The Carter's Ink Company, 162 Columbus Avenue, Boston.
Little's Brilliant Black Record Ribbon.
Manufactured by A. P. Little, Rochester, N. Y.
Eureka Brand Special Black Record Ribbon, ink No. 158.
Manufactured by Mittag & Volger, Park Ridge, N. J.
Diamond Brand Official Black Record Ribbon, ink No. 621.
Manufactured by The Stephen T. Smith Company, 10 Park Place, New York.
Underwood's Black Record Ribbon, ink No. 655.
Manufactured by John Underwood & Co., 30 Vesey Street, New York.
The Webster Star Brand Black Record Ribbon, ink No. 147.
Manufactured by F. S. Webster Company, 332 Congress Street, Boston.
Black Record Paragon Ribbon.
Manufactured by Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict, 15 School Street, Boston.
Yost Black Record Pad.
Manufactured by Yost Writing Machine Company, 316 Broadway, New York.
1904.] PUBLIC DOCUMENT — No. 52. 15
The report of S. E. Dawson, Esq., Queen's Printer and
Controller of Stationery, submitted to the Canadian Parlia-
ment in 1900, deals with the subjeet of papers, inks, and
typewriting in a most instructive and interesting manner. I n
writing of the permanency of typewriting he says : " During
the last year I had under my notice a crucial instance of the
different behaviors ot inks under a severe test. In the fire
at the West Block two letter books belonging to the Depart-
ment of Militia were injured. Both were charred at the
edges, and had been thoroughly soaked with water to an
equal degree. The signatures and all letters, in both books,
which had been copied from writing ink were perfectly good
and legible. The durability of good writing ink was evi-
dent, but the typewritten copies were very different. In
one letter book not a single typewritten letter was legible.
Every page was an indistinct blur of blue and purple. In
the other book a different ribbon had for the most part been
used, and every letter written with that was clear and dis-
tinct ; while on the pages of the same book where other
ribbons had been used not a single word or even letter could
be picked out of the confused blur of color."
Inquiries continue to be made concerning the legality of
stamping upon the records, and the permanency of stamping
inks. The stamping would seem to be illegal, but the per-
manency is an open question. The permanency thus far,
under a severe test, of stamping done in 1901 with a certain
pad for which permanency was claimed, suggested to the
commissioner the advisability of an investigation ; but the
statement of the several manufacturers consulted, that all
the inks contained aniline colors, and the doubt expressed
as to absolute permanency, made an investigation at this
time premature. Experiments are being carried on by the
manufacturers with black and blue colors, and some of those
inks now made would undoubtedly, if not exposed to the
light, last for a long time, but it can be said that inks of the
other colors are fugitive.
Investigation will be made to determine if possible
16 PUBLIC KECOEDS. [Jan.
whether stamping should be allowed, as there are many
places where stamps could be used to advantage, and many
would like to use them.
Binding and Preserving the Re cords.
The most specific results of the work from year to year
are shown in the binding and preserving of the ancient
records. The condition of some of the volumes cannot be
pictured by description, or photography, as nothing but
handling will show the state of decay to which the paper
has arrived. Many of the books are mentioned by writers
and orators as priceless ; but the requirement by the com-
missioner that they shall be bound and preserved is often
considered as the imposition of a needless expense. A part
of the appropriation for the work of the commissioner is
expended each year for this binding, where the expense to
a town would under certain circumstances seem excessive.
Records have been bound by the Emery process dur-
ing the year for the following places : Middlesex County
Southern District, and Worcester County Worcester Dis-
trict Registries of Deeds ; Middlesex County Registry of
Probate ; Burlington, Dartmouth, Everett, Great Barring-
ton, Leicester, Lenox, New Brain tree, Northfield, Reho-
both, Sheffield, South Hadley, Taunton, and Tisbury.
During the year the vital records to 1850 of the following
towns have been printed, under the provisions of chapter
470 of the Acts of 1902 : Barre, Becket, Bedford, Lee,
Leicester, Lexington, Maiden, Medfield, Millbury, South-
borough, Sudbury, Topsfield, Tyringham, Walpole, and
Westborough. The following volumes have been issued : —
Boston. A Volume of Records relating to the Early History
of Boston, containing Boston Marriages from 1752 to 1809.
(This is the Thirteenth Report in the series of Boston Records,
formerly called Record Commissioners' Reports.) Edward W.
McGlenen, City Registrar. Boston, 1903.
Fitchburg. The Old Records of the Town of Fitchburg,
Mass. A copy of a portion of the Records contained in Volume
1904.] PUBLIC DOCUMENT— \o. 52. 17
III., pages 271 to 559 inclusive, being Volume Five of the Printer)
Records of the Town. Compiled by Walter A. Davis, City Clerk.
Ancient Dating and Adjusting of Dates.
The thirteenth report of this commission dealt with the
subject of double dating. As much copying is being done
or is in contemplation in anticipation of the publication of
the series of vital records, it seems well to again call atten-
tion to that subject.
Owing to the adoption by Parliament of the Gregorian
calendar, and the change from the Julian, the reckoning of
time as connected with ancient dates is always perplexing,
even to those familiar with the subject, and egregious errors
have been made by copyists and writers. The greatest
cause of error has been adopting a single date as the year,
when double dating would have shown that the next year
as now reckoned was intended. The Massachusetts Court
Records are usually single dated, and searchers are easily
led into error.
Much has been written in attempts to explain the method
of dating, which lacks directness and leaves the reader still
confused. An attempt is here made to present a concise
The act of Parliament, passed at the session of Jan. 17,
1750, is clear in its meaning, and the part here quoted seems
to need no explanation. It enacted : "That in and through-
out all his Majesties dominions and countries in Europe,
Asia, Africa and America the said supputation, according
to which the year of our Lord beginneth on the twenty-fifth
day of March, shall not be made use of from and after the
last day of December one thousand seven hundred and fifty-
one ; and that the first day of January next following the
said last day of December shall be reckoned, taken, deemed
and accounted to be the first day of the j^ear of our Lord,
one thousand seven hundred and fifty-two." Also that
"the feast of Easter and other moveable feasts thereon de-
pending, shall be ascertained according to the same method
as they now are, until the second day of September in the
18 PUBLIC RECORDS. [Jan.
year one thousand seven hundred and fifty -two inclusive ;
and that the natural day next immediately following the
said second day of September shall be called, reckoned, and
accounted to be the fourteenth day of September."
Ignorance of the law, or defiance of it from prejudice
which was Avide-spread, led persons to continue the old
method of dating for some time, and such dates, where
found, must be treated as errors.
The following would seem to be a concise statement for
reference : —
1. Under the present method of beginning the year Janu-
ary 1, instead of March 25, December 31 was the last day
of 1751, and January 1 the first day of 1752.
2. There should be no double dates after the year 1751,
and never any except from January 1 to March 24.
3. Whether a single date in January, February, or March
to the 24th, in a year prior to 1752, meant, by the present
method of dating, the year as written or the next, can only
be determined by the dates of the months preceding or
4. Prior to 1752 " 1st Month" or " 1 Mo" meant March,
not January, the months numbering in order to "12th
Month," which was February, not December.
The change of dates from Old Style (O.S.) to New Style
(N.S.) is especially confusing, and occasions much con-
troversy, and disagreement between what are accepted as
In 1582 the Gregorian calendar was established, which
dropped ten days from the Julian calendar, and made each
of the years ending a century (i.e., which end with 00)
and not divisible by 400 a common year and not a leap
year, the Julian calendar having made each divisable by 4 a
leap year. (This explains why 1900 was not a leap year.)
Therefore, 1700, which was a leap year under the Julian
calendar, was a common year under the Gregorian. As, 1
day had been added in 1700, by adhering to the Julian
calendar, it became necessary in the act of 1750 to drop 11
1904.] PUBLIC DOCUMENT— No. 52. 19
days in order to conform to the Gregorian calendar, which
had dropped 10. The legal and practical method was thus
adopted of adding 10 days to all dates prior to Sept. 3,
1752, to make them conform to the New Style. As an
illustration, Sept. 7, 1630, the day Boston received its name,
became September 17, and is so recognized.
By another method of reckoning, each year divisible by 4
is considered a leap year, as under the Julian calendar, which
would include the years 1700, 1800, and 1900, omitted
in the Gregorian calendar because not divisible by 400.
Accordingly the Julian calendar adds a day in each century
for a leap year omitted in the Gregorian or established
The statement made in various publications that from
1700 to 1800 there should be 11 days added, 12 from 1800
to 1900, and 13 during this century, is based upon the fact
that the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 had each made the
difference of 1 day between the calendars. This method of
calculation may have its uses in comparisons, but under it
each century would require a new adjustment of dates.
Parliament fixed upon 10 days as the difference, and it was
adopted, and is so accepted.
A confusion also arises in legislative dates. Under the
Constitution the General Court assembled on the last
Wednesday in May, and was dissolved on the day next preced-
ing the said last Wednesday. Consequently, the legislative
year covered parts of two calendar years, while the acts and
resolves passed in the sessions held in the second calendar
year bore date of the year of assembling. This continued
until May 11, 1831.
The following rule can be followed in considering legis-
lative dates within the period from May, 1781, to May,
1831 : for all dates from the last Wednesday of May to De-
cember 31 inclusive, use the first year ; for all from January
1 to the day preceding the last Wednesday in May inclu-
sive, use the second year.
Various citations of the laws have designated the same
acts under different numbers, the older editions having
numbered the chapters of each session serially. The latest
20 PUBLIC RECORDS. [Jan.
official edition of the Laws and Resolves numbers the chap-
ters of the acts consecutively for the legislative year.
As an illustration, the act passed March 23, 1786, quoted
in the table of towns in the Manual of the Legislature,
appears in the early editions as chapter 34 of the February
session of 1785 (really 1786), while in the latest edition it
is chapter 75 of the Acts of the legislative year 1785.
Manual of the Legislature.
At the request of the Clerk of the Senate and the Clerk of
the House of Representatives, the table in the Manual of the
Legislature entitled " Counties, Cities, and Towns of Mas-
sachusetts" is prepared by the commissioner. This is in
consequence of the fact that the first report of the commis-
sion in 1889 contained the class of facts embodied in this table,
which had been very incomplete and incorrect. In prepar-
ing the report much legislation before overlooked, because
not in print or not indexed, was discovered and embodied
From time to time since 1889 references found in ancient
town records, which have been examined while in the com-
missioner's custody for binding, have led to the discovery of
legislation concerning changes in town boundaries ; and such
legislation has been included in the table, but the commis-
sioner has had neither time nor appropriation for research
for this work not properly belonging to his office. The
very thorough and systematic search of the written court
records, made by the Commissioners' on the Topographical
Survey and Map of the State, continued by that department
of the Board of Harbor and Land Commissioners, has brought
to light much obscure legislation which has been embodied
in the table in the Manual, for which acknowledgment is
here made. The establishment year by year by the Legis-
lature of new town boundaries as proposed by the Board is
constantly adding to the table.
In consulting the table it will be noticed that in many
cases part of each town is said to be annexed to the other
town. While this is generally true when new town bounds
are established, mention is made of the fact only when the
1904.] PUBLIC DOCUMENT— No. 52. 21
act so specified, it being inferred that enough territory \\;i .
then transferred to make it worthy of mention.
The date given in the table under the caption "First
Mentioned in Records of the State, or therein recorded as
Established or Incorporated," is sometimes questioned or
protested by persons interested in a town, who claim that
the date of settlement should be given. Some of these pro-
tests have even reached the Governors.
The dates given are just what they purport to be. Any
attempt to give dates of settlement would necessitate his-
torical sketches, and occasion protests from towns, once
included in a large tract of land, as to which included the
original spot settled.
This subject cannot be better presented than by quoting
from the first report of this commission : —
The presentation made under town records is not a historical
summary of legislation relating to the lands which were first
plantations and then towns, much of which, as has been said,
may be a matter of town record only, but it is a presentation of
the facts contained in the record in possession of the State, with a
reference to this record covering the first appearance of the town
name, and of its successive appearances when territorial limits,
change of name, or change to a city are the subjects of legislation.
Various conclusions can be drawn from the records. The date of
the first mention of a town in a tax act is sometimes fixed upon
as the elate of incorporation ; the date of the first mention of the
land, which by its location afterward became the town, is some-
times used to establish the date of incorporation ; also, the elate
when the " town" is given all the privileges of other towns, etc.,
is sometimes used as the conclusive date as to the incorporation.
For these reasons, it may be contended that the dates which are
given in this report as the ones on which certain towns were incor-
porated are incorrect, as they will not agree with statements in
town histories and in other works. However, it is believed that
the dates of the establishment of the several towns, or of the first
mention of the town names here given, are the correct ones. If a
town was named in the tax act of any year, and this was the first
time the town was mentioned in legislation, it is fair to assume
that it was at that time acknowledged as a town already in exist-
ence, and the date of the tax act cannot justly be considered as
22 PUBLIC RECORDS. [Jan.
the date of incorporation. If a " town" by an act was given the
privileges of other towns, it must already have been a town, and
the date of such legislation cannot fairly be considered as the date
Again, if a town — A, for instance — had been Plantation No.
2 for forty years, and then the name of Plantation No. 2 was
changed to the town of A, and then the name A was changed to
B after another forty years, the town of B should not date from
the establishment of Plantation No. 2, while, as a matter of fact,
the records of the town of B begin eighty years later ; but the
circumstances of this illustration apply in some cases. So, there
are certain towns which, from all that can be ascertained from the
records in the possession of the State, never were established, and
there are some not now recognized as towns, which, so far as the
State record is concerned, have never become extinct.
An example is furnished in the case of Falmouth. June
4, 1686, " Upon the request of the inhabitants of Sippican,
alias Rochester, to become a township, and have the privi-
leges of a town, the court granted their desires in that
respect, and the like granted to Suckanesset inhabitants."
No subsequent legislation identifies Suckanesset with Fal-
mouth, which name appears for the first time in the State
records in a tax act in 1694, and it is so stated in the
Manual. How or when the name Falmouth was given to
the territory embraced in Suckanesset is not known, and
the date of the establishment of Suckanesset cannot be
given as the date of the establishment of Falmouth.
Northfield offers another illustration. Feb. 22, 1714,
upon the petition of the inhabitants of the " plantation of
Squakeag, formerly called Northfield," the grant for a
plantation was "revived," the "town to be called NTorth-
field." June 10, 1715, this order was continued for three
years. Five years later, Dec. 6, 1720, the committee for
the plantation was continued for two years, and June 15,
1723, Northfield was given all the privileges enjoyed by
towns. Unfortunately, the first volume of Northfield
records has been missing for many years, otherwise it might
be possible to ascertain when Squakeag was " formerly
called Northfield," or when the inhabitants considered the
1904.] PUBLIC DOCUMENT — No. 52. 23
settlement a town. The first mention of the name in the
records of the State is Feb. 22, 1714, and that is, therefore,
given in the Manual, without an attempt to fix the date of
settlement or incorporation of Northfield.
The question is sometimes raised as to how certain towns
became towns or acquired corporate rights, no direct legis-
lation concerning their establishment or incorporation having
been enacted. The decision of the Supreme Court and
the legislation presented for the first time in the table in the
Manual for 1904 would seem to be sufficient to establish the
corporate capacity of all towns not otherwise incorporated.
The dates of all days in the table prior to Sept. 3, 1752,
are marked with an asterisk, signifying " Old Style."
INDEX TO SUBJECTS.
Work of the Year, 3, 4
Enforcement of the Laws, 5, 6
Accumulation of Papers, 6-9
Politics in Recording Offices, 9, 10
Terms of Office, 11
Exaggerated Newspaper Reports, 11, 12
Reports of the Commissioner, 13
Stamping Pads, 15, 16
Binding and Preserving the Records, 16
Ancient Dating and Adjusting of Dates, . . . . . . 17, 20
Manual of the Legislature, .... .... 20-23